California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has intervened in a San Mateo lawsuit he contends involves the state’s ability to provide affordable housing — but the city says the case deals with a 10-unit condominium development off El Camino Real that doesn’t meet municipal standards.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Tuesday that he asked Becerra to add the state as a party in a legal challenge to a San Mateo County Superior Court ruling.
“California will defend our ability to tackle the cost crisis by holding all cities accountable to statewide housing policy,” Newsom said.
Becerra said in the statement that the state’s ability to regulate housing policy in charter cities, which cover 58% of the population in California, is at issue in the case.
“The state has a fundamental interest in helping Californians access affordable housing,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Shawn Mason, city attorney for San Mateo, said in a statement that residents and officials of the city recognize the lack of affordable housing as a serious issue.
San Mateo has a long track record of policies and financial commitments to deal with the problem, Mason said.
“Just as there are legal limits on the city’s authority, the California Constitution limits the state’s authority over charter cities as well,” Mason said.
San Mateo is a charter city, with its authority from a charter, while general law cities in the state operate under powers of the government code.
The San Mateo County Superior Court agreed that the city complied with the Housing Accountability Act in denying the development for failing to meet city standards, Mason said.
Attorney General Becerra intervened Tuesday in the filing with the First District Court of Appeal challenging the San Mateo County Superior Court ruling Nov. 17 by Judge George Miram.
Becerra said he and Newsom monitored the litigation and have serious concerns about Miram invalidating the Housing Accountability Act on constitutional grounds.
The attorney general said the accountability act is a state law enacted in 1982 because inadequate access to housing is a critical problem that threatens economic, environmental and social quality of life.
The San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation filed a 2019 lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court challenging a decision by the San Mateo City Council denying the proposed 10-unit condo. The renters federation said in a superior court filing that the Housing Accountability Act represents a sea change in how local agencies are required to review proposed housing developments.
The housing act eliminated the broad discretion traditionally afforded local agencies and imposed a duty to approve projects that comply with municipal codes, the renters’ group said.
Mason said in a superior court filing that the development did not comply with San Mateo’s design and parking standards.
The council voted in February of 2018 to deny the developer’s appeal of the Planning Commission’s 2017 decision turning down the project planned for 4 W. Santa Inez Ave.
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